Next month’s Cheltenham Festival will be headlined by the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup following the announcement of a partnership between the national charity for seriously ill children and the Jockey Club.
More than 100,000 children and young people are seriously ill or have exceptional health needs.
WellChild, based in Cheltenham, seeks to help them and their families.
Jump racing’s flagship event, the Festival supporting WellChild, will be watched by a television audience of several million between March 16 and 19.
As Al Boum Photo bids to join an elite of four other all-time greats to have won three successive Cheltenham Gold Cups, however, no spectator presence is likely on course during the Government’s current Covid-19 restrictions for professional sport.
The pandemic has had a major detrimental impact too on WellChild’s finances, with 60 per cent of its projected income lost – and the charity has also had to adapt its services to meet an urgent demand for help from families left alone to deliver round-the-clock care for their children.
The Jockey Club, which runs Cheltenham Racecourse, is hoping to build awareness and inspire donations for WellChild through a series of activities in the build up to the Festival.
Multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy said: “This is a fantastic move from the Jockey Club‘s team at Cheltenham.
“What WellChild does is just so important when you look at it, and I’m really pleased that the best four days in our sport are being put forward to help.
“Racing is a charitable sport, full of generous people, and I’m sure they’ll get right behind this. I’ll certainly support the charity in any way I can.”
Jockey Club regional managing director Ian Renton added: “WellChild plays a vital role in our society, supporting seriously ill children and young people, and those who care for them.
“Their services have been needed more than ever during the pandemic, and we are very proud indeed to help such an important charity among our communities, including in Cheltenham.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank (previous Festival sponsors) Magners for their support in 2019 and 2020, and express our gratitude to our various and valued partners who have retained their involvement with the Festival in 2021 and those we are welcoming for the first time.”
Ed Chamberlin, ITV Racing’s lead presenter and WellChild ambassador, said: “When I was being treated in Southampton Hospital the children’s cancer ward was next door and broke my heart.
“If I recovered (from stomach cancer) I vowed to support a charity that got children treated at home, rather than a hospital ward.
“The work WellChild do from their headquarters in Cheltenham with seriously ill children is truly remarkable.
“They, like all charities, have had a brutal year – and I’m so thrilled about this partnership.”